First Call: Gerrit Cole piles up more strikeouts; JuJu Smith-Schuster continues to ‘be lit’ | TribLIVE.com
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First Call: Gerrit Cole piles up more strikeouts; JuJu Smith-Schuster continues to ‘be lit’

Tim Benz
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Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on August 28, 2019 in Houston.

In “First Call” Thursday, Gerrit Cole dials up the heat. JuJu Smith-Schuster continues to show how marketable he really is. Carli Lloyd keeps the hype going about her place-kicking career. And Alison Riske is up for Round 2 at the U.S. Open.


Gas from Gerrit

Former Pirate Gerrit Cole dialed up the heat on Wednesday.

He totaled 14 strikeouts on the mound for the Houston Astros against the Tampa Bay Rays, while walking only one batter. That was in just 6 2/3 innings.

Cole’s 252 strikeouts lead the major leagues.

The Rays were able to touch up the right-hander a bit. Cole yielded four runs along the way, including a homer from Ji-Man Choi.

However, the Astros went on to win 8-6.


Is this “lit”?

Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has quickly gained a reputation as a master marketer.

And people are taking notice. Smith-Schuster has been rated as the No. 7 player in the NFL when it comes to marketability. He’s tied with Houston’s J.J. Watt.

Sports Business Daily came out with the list. It was basically a poll, not data about dollars earned through marketing.

“The survey was distributed to marketing/branding execs, sports business professors and both print and on-air football media,” according to the post by John Aceti. “The 40 respondents listed, in order, their top five most marketable players in the NFL.”

After 19 years in the league, Tom Brady is still on top of the heap.

Here’s what was written about JuJu.

“Smith-Schuster just missed out on the top five in this survey, but things could be different in 12 months. Despite playing largely in Antonio Brown’s shadow during his first two NFL seasons, Smith-Schuster’s appearance on the list is driven in large part by his social media acumen, interest in esports and open, accessible personality. (Cogent VP/Brand Sponsorships & Partnerships Greg) Goldring said Smith-Schuster is a ‘new-age hero,’ and called him the ‘epitome of the next generation.’ NFL Network’s Kay Adams said Generation Z ‘loves him,’ and it is easy to see why. Smith-Schuster knows his appeal and how to maximize it, and is well positioned to be at the forefront of the NFL’s marketing initiatives going forward.”

Awesome. Now let’s see if he can replace Brown as Ben Roethlisberger’s top target. Then we’ll worry about his “new-age hero” status.


Kicking Carli

Carli Lloyd is keeping her place-kicking talk alive.

She seems to honestly think that kicking a soccer ball is close enough to kicking a football that she is considering switching gears and giving the NFL a shot.

During an NFL Network interview Wednesday, Lloyd said she is entertaining the idea and considering it more than she expected when she first tried a practice kick with the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles last week, nailing a 55-yard field goal.

“It’s gone from just having fun kicking to, ‘Will she play in the NFL?’ At first I was just laughing about it but the more that I spoke with my husband, he’s all for it and my friends and family, they’re really encouraging me to potentially take up this opportunity,” said Lloyd in the Independent.

At this point it feels like the media is simply going to promote Lloyd until she gets a tryout somewhere in the NFL. Then she’ll get signed. Then she’ll get cut. Then the team that signed her in the first place will be accused of gender bias.

And then the circle of “woke” will be complete.

As I wrote Wednesday, is this really about giving Lloyd an opportunity to win a job? Or is this just an opportunity for the NFL to “be progressive” and look good on Twitter with a big-name female athlete?

Because there have been other women who have begun the more traditional route toward place kicking, and it’s never gotten this kind of momentum.

So is Lloyd the best woman for the job — let alone the best kicker for any job — or is she just the biggest celebrity to try so far?


Rooting for Riske

Peters Township product Alison Riske is playing her second-round match at the U.S. Open Thursday. She’s facing Latvian Jelena Ostapenko at 3:30 p.m.

Riske won her first-round match against Garbine Muguruza in three sets.

Back in July, Riske got to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon before losing to Serena Williams.


Who cares if it doesn’t count?

This wasn’t an out.

It deserved to be an out, even if the runner was safe.

That was Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Iglesias, and that was an amazing play even if he couldn’t get Starlin Castro at first base.

No worries for Cincinnati, though. They won 5-0.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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